The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, the Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.
When a Roman Catholic bishop tells you to do something and you’re a young Irish Catholic, you do it. So when Bishop John McCarthy told a young University of Texas law student by the name of Geoffrey Courtney to do pro bono work, Courtney did it. All joking aside, Courtney, an attorney in Clemens & Spencer, P.C. in San Antonio, says McCarthy played a pivotal role in his legal career. McCarthy, he says, led by example. “Bishop McCarthy is totally committed to issues that make a difference in the lives of real people. He understands how a little bit of help can make such a dramatic difference in a person’s life.”
Taking the lead from McCarthy, Courtney takes on five to six pro bono cases at any given time. Most of Courtney’s pro bono cases focus on civil rights and disabilities issues. Courtney approaches pro bono work not as an obligation, but as a challenge and says he has fun working on the cases. “It’s an opportunity to get into an area of the law that you might not otherwise practice in and help make a situation right, or at least better than it was.”
Courtney sits on the board of several public interest organizations, but he’s never strayed far from where his pro bono work started. He has served for more than 10 years as director of legal services for the Diocesan Law Project, founded by Bishop McCarthy in 1990.
The modest Courtney credits his pro bono work not only to McCarthy’s influence, but to the support he receives from his firm. “It’s important to have a firm that believes in the issue, and I am lucky to have partners that appreciate that work.”